Airbnb has been accused of “outrageous discrimination” in a class action law suit filed against it in Israel where the lawyers demanded monetary compensation for the damages that had been cause by the company following its decision of withdrawal of listings of home in the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Earlier this week, the San Francisco-based company had announced that the criticisms that it faced from people who “believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced” had pushed it to remove around 200 homes in the Israeli settlements from its listings for rents.
The he move “represents especially grave, offensive and outrageous discrimination”, said Ma’anit Rabinovich from the West Bank settlement of Kida through her lawyers, she used to offer accommodations and guest room rentals.
15,000 shekels (US$2,573) in personal damages has been claimed by Rabinovich according to media reports. According to court papers presented at Jerusalem District Court, as of yet, an unspecified sum on behalf of others in the same situation would be demanded in the class action lawsuit.
“The company’s decision is in effect directed solely against Israeli citizens living in the settlements, the petitioner claims, and this is severe, especially outrageous discrimination,” Rabinovich’s lawyers said in a statement.
“(It is) part of the long war being conducted by organisations (of which a clear majority are anti-Semitic) against the State of Israel in its entirety, and against Israelis living in settlements in particular.”
Airbnb’s move has been welcomed by Palestinians whose aim is to create an independent country including the West Bank. Palestinians have claimed that it is wrong for companies to profit from the so-called illegal settlements because a large number of world powers are of the opinion that Israel has violated international law, by the construction of settlements on the occupied Palestinian land.
“Airbnb took a decision in the right direction to stop dealings with Israeli settlements, consistent with international legitimacy,” Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior official with the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization, said.
There was no comment made by Airbnb on the lawsuit.
“Israel is a special place and our over 22,000 hosts are special people who have welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests to Israel. We understand that this is a hard and complicated issue and we appreciate everyone’s perspective,” said Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s global head of policy and communications, in an e-mailed statement to the media.
The removal from the listings by the Airbnb is only applicable to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The self rule of the Palestinians under the Israeli military occupation had been limited in this region.
The Airbnb delisting does not apply to rentals in Israel itself or even in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights which are areas that that have been allegedly occupied by Israel and have not been recognised by the international community. More than a decade ago, settlers were withdrawn by Israel from another Palestinian territory, the Gaza Strip.
(Adapted from ChannelNewsAsia.com)